This year at PlayNYC I got to see plenty of games that did weird things. However, a game that took Tweets, mixed them up, and asked you to unscramble them? I knew I needed to play that. Thus, I stopped by Simple Machine's booth to check out Tweet Star, got a look at their earlier project Calculator: The Game, and even got a nice quick chat with lead designer Eric.
The basic idea behind Tweet Star is simple. First, you'll pick one of five subjects, which change every 30 minutes. After that, you'll be given a tweet that is scrambled up. Your goal is to rearrange the words to get the tweet back to its original form. Do so successfully and you'll earn 15 coins and move on to the next tweet. You'll keep going until you've gone through five tweets, which then lets you review the set you just unscrambled.
It's short, sweet, and to the point. More importantly, it's hilarious. I decided to pick Panera Bread as my topic, and got to learn that a lot of people have strange opinions about the company. One user seems to think that Panera is a black hole that they get sucked in to anytime they are indecisive about where they want to eat. Living so close to a Panera myself, this is a rather entertaining observation that I found myself agreeing with a little too closely.
After messing around with Tweet Star a bit, I got a chance to check out another one of Simple Machine's creations: Calculator: The Game. How do you make a game out of a calculator? Mathematically, of course. The game requires you to use the buttons on a calculator to reach a specific number before running out of turns. At first, this is easy, but things quickly become tough. New buttons come in that do things like reverse the number or change their positioning. You have to really think ahead if you want to solve these puzzles.
Also, the calculator has thoughts and opinions about life between the levels. It's adorable. Until I was told to put my finger over the solar panel, snuffing out its life forever. What the hell Simple Machine?
I also got a chance to talk to Eric, the lead designer for the company. He was nice enough to provide me with a quick interview, mostly focused on Tweet Star. I've provided a transcript here for those interested.
TechRaptor: Eric you’re here with Simple Machine to show off…?
Eric: Tweet Star!
TechRaptor: Tweet Star! Why don’t you give me a quick rundown on what Tweet Star is?
Eric: Sure, sure. So Tweet Star, we just released it yesterday so brand new, fresh off the boat in a way. Or fresh off the press. So Tweet Star is a game where we actually download tweets from the internet, and then we scramble it and you’re trying to unscramble it. You get points, you get a currency, and you can actually use them to buy different costumes for your Meemoes, which are the little cute characters we have on the screen. You can also play multiplayer, you can play versus as well.
TechRaptor: So how did this come about? How did Tweet Star … what inspired you to do this?
Eric: So our founder of the company, Kurt, he was actually thinking of using a game, er, where we could use tweets to play the game. Because right now there’s a lot of social media stuff, and a lot of discourse happening in the country and stuff like that. So we were trying to see whether there’s a way we can help to let other people see what-- see things they may not usually see. So we go “since everybody’s talking on Twitter right now, is there any way we can make a game with Twitter?” and this is how it came about.
TechRaptor: Now while you’re making this game, seeing all these people’s Tweets, have any of these Tweets surprised you, or have you found anything really weird?
Eric: Yeah! So what we needed to do was we actually used Twitter’s curation to download Tweets for us, and then we go through our own rigorous process of, you know there’s some words we don’t want to put on the game itself, some vulgarities and stuff like it, and then the end result is that, all these Tweets we need to take another look at them and see what’s funny or some Tweets which may not actually be appropriate for the game. After that, when we look at some of the Tweets, it’s pretty interesting. You get to see different perspectives, how people like pizza for example. How they really really really like pizza. So there’d be people like ordering pizza and talking about how pizza is alive and stuff like that. It’s really interesting to see different perspectives.
TechRaptor: Are any of them weirdos who like pineapple on pizza?
Eric: Yeah, I think so, yeah. There’s some that like anchovies on pizza too, so yeah. [Laughter.]
TechRaptor: Oh no. [Laughter.] Have any of your own guys Tweets been on this? Have you happened to be playing a game and stumbled across a Tweet of yours or one of your friends?
Eric: Right now, no. Right now we’ve kind of went through that list of Tweets, so we haven’t really put our own Tweets inside yet and stuff like that. But later on as we curate more and more Tweets to put in the game… you’ll possibly see your own Tweet in the game itself, yeah.
TechRaptor: So before Tweet Star you guys made Pop the Lock, Calculator: The Game…
Eric: Yeah, yeah.
TechRaptor: What’s the whole thing behind these really… Well, you’re Simple Machine. Like why these simple little mobile games?
Eric: Yeah, so, we started off… I think Pop the Lock was what put Simple Machine on the map. So it’s why Kurt, the founder of the company, so… what he wanted to do was he wanted to make a game that really captured the essence of gaming is and what fun is. That’s why he started… He had the company, and then Pop the Lock came along. Then Calculator was because we wanted to see whether we can make math fun again. So a lot of all these games we make are quick, easy, but we just wanted to have game that just captured the essence of fun and then let people play it easily and quickly. So we want to cater for as many people as we can. That’s why most of the games are easy to pick up and easy to play.
TechRaptor: So you’re capturing the essence of fun… with math?
Eric: Yeah! It’s fun! Have you tried it before?
TechRaptor: I have not, but now I’m going to.
Erc: We’ll let you try it later on.
TechRaptor: Alright I promise I’ll come back and try it later. I’d really like to thank you for spending a quick couple minutes to talk with me about Tweet Star, thank you so much.
Eric: Oh it’s no problem.
We'd like to once again take the time to thank Eric for talking to us.